FCC’s Democrats Denounce Martin’s Proposal

Nov 13, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The two Democratic members of the Federal Communications Commission are accusing FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin of trying to hide his proposed major easing of cross-ownership rules.
Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael J. Copps, in a statement today, said the supposedly limited change to the media ownership rules proposed today by Mr. Martin could fuel a major remapping of media that would lessen ownership diversity and the number of voices people hear in a large number of media markets.
“His proposal could propel a frenzy of competition-stifling mergers across the land,” they warned.
Mr. Martin today proposed the FCC conclude its review of media ownership rules by easing the cross-ownership ban that currently prevents newspapers and broadcasters in a given market from buying each other.
Mr. Martin’s proposal calls for newspapers in the biggest 20 markets to be able to buy a local TV or radio broadcaster as long as it is not one of the four biggest in the market. In smaller markets, the FCC generally would lean against ownership combination, but it could approve waivers under certain circumstances.
Mr. Copps and Mr. Adelstein today said the impact would be that mergers in markets of all sizes would be far easier to get approved with “very loose” standards.
“We have seen how loosely the commission has granted waivers in the past,” they said. “If this proposal goes through, the FCC could grant cross-ownership applications in such small towns as Meridian, Miss., and Bend, Ore. When big conglomerates can’t get their way in a general rule, they press for loopholes that swallow the rule, and they would succeed with this approach.”
The commissioners also said the smaller stations that newspapers would be limited to purchase are the minority- and women-owned outlets; they expressed concern that the proposal threatens to worsen minority ownership levels.
“The Martin rules are clearly not ready for prime time,” they said. They also criticized Mr. Martin for not offering enough time for public comment on the proposal and not finishing up a look at the impact local ownership has on programming before making his proposal.

One Comment

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